Bulk of LePage vetoes withstand override votes

Posted June 26, 2013, at 12:01 p.m.
Last modified June 26, 2013, at 11:10 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage lost his major veto battle Wednesday when the Maine House and Senate both voted to override his veto of a two-year budget that takes effect Monday. But he won almost every other veto skirmish during votes Wednesday, when the House and Senate sustained more than a dozen of the Republican governor’s vetoes.

LePage has vetoed more than 50 bills this session, and as of late Wednesday only the budget veto and one other veto of a bill dealing with registries of deeds have been overridden. On Wednesday evening, the Senate considered a handful of other bills that the House has voted to override.

As House members debated the budget veto, the Senate on Wednesday morning allowed six other vetoes to stand. A range of measures including new campaign finance requirements and legislation aimed at ensuring additional public comment on charter school applications won’t become law as a result.

The campaign finance bill, LD 1023, would have required closer oversight of contributions that fund the transitional activities and inaugural events of governors-elect. The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Tuttle, D-Sanford, would have required governors-elect to form official committees to oversee such contributions and publicly report contributions of more than $10.

LePage wrote in his veto message that the bill “disrespects” the choices voters make at the ballot box.

“When the Maine people decide to elect a governor, they express their confidence in an individual’s integrity and decision-making,” he wrote. “Passing laws to immediately question that integrity disrespects the decision made at the ballot box, regardless of the political party of the governor-elect.”

Tuttle argued Wednesday that reporting requirements should cover all fundraising by elected officials.

“I think this proposal is consistent with the objectives of campaign finance law,” he said. “Fundraising by elected officials should be conducted in the full light of day, including a new governor-elect.”

The Senate’s largely party-line vote of 21-14 fell short of the two-thirds threshold needed. One Republican senator, Edward Youngblood of Brewer, broke with his party on the override vote.

The charter school measure would have required that prospective charter school operators hold public hearings and provide area residents with more information about their plans as part of the application process to open a charter school.

That measure, LD 1128, was sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland. Democrats who supported overriding LePage’s veto of the law mustered only 20 votes, falling short of the required two-thirds threshold.

Senators also voted largely on party lines to sustain a bill to require that two state agencies form a work group that would address workplace risks faced by home-care workers and a bill that would have required additional state agency offices provide voter registration services.

After voting 114-34 to override LePage’s budget veto, the House carved through a long list of vetoes issued since lawmakers left the State House early last Thursday morning.

By falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to override, the House sustained a pile of vetoes Wednesday afternoon. Among the more notable bills to fall were a call to study what Maine could do to protect itself from the effects of climate change; a bill that would make it unlawful employment discrimination under the Maine Human Rights Act for an employer to fail to accommodate nursing mothers; a directive to state agencies to create a plan to reduce homelessness; an attempt to clarify the legal definition of threatening behavior with a firearm; and legislation designed to compel gun sellers to perform background checks on all potential firearms buyers.

The House voted Wednesday to override four LePage vetoes. The most significant, LD 1271, would heighten penalties for campaign finance reporting violations, but the veto override failed narrowly in the Senate on Wednesday night by a vote of 23-12.

Another veto that was overridden in the House on Wednesday would establish a commission to study cancer-related mortality. LePage vetoed LD 1032 because it called on the Senate president to make executive branch appointments to the commission, which LePage saw as an overreach of legislative power. The Senate sustained the veto Wednesday night, but vowed to amend the bill so the governor makes the appointments and bring it back when the Legislature reconvenes July 9.

“We all agree that the study that is sought here is important and should go forward,” said Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta.

The Senate agreed with the House’s override of LePage’s veto of LD 559, which affects document filing rules for registries of deeds. The Senate voted 27-8 to override the veto, making LD 559 the second bill this session to survive a gubernatorial veto.

The Senate also faced a decision Wednesday night on overriding LePage’s veto of a comprehensive energy bill that passed both chambers by vetoproof margins. The House voted to override that veto last Thursday in the early morning hours.

As of late Wednesday night, the Senate had yet to take up vetoes of a bill that amends compulsory school attendance laws. Both bodies announced that they would reconvene Thursday morning to act on a number of bills from the so-called special appropriations table, which is where bills that cost the state money go until funding can be found for them. The Appropriations Committee was going through the 130 bills on the table late Wednesday.

BDN political analyst Robert Long and staff writer Christopher Cousins contributed to this report.

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